Tag Archives: Salvation

Sermon Thursday – The Nature of the Church

This week, we continue our series on “Fundamentals of the Faith.”  This week’s topic: What is the Nature of the Church?

Introduction:

Want to be confused? Read these quotes:

“The church is a purely human institution created by man to control the minds of people.”
“The church is a divinely given institution created by God to bring people back to Him.”
“The church is a divinely given institution created by God when His first plan goofed up.”
“The church is comprised of every denomination that claims to believe in Jesus.”
“The church is comprised of some denominations, but only those who believe Jesus is eternal.”
“The church IS a denomination.”
“The church is comprised of those who come to God in faithful obedience to His commands.”
“The church is something you can join (choose the church of your choice).”
“The church is something you have to be voted into.”
“The church is something that God puts you in.”

Confused yet?

All these things are said by people about the church. Most of them are things said by various denominations about the church. All you have to do is look across the religious landscape of our country to see that there is a lot of confusion about the nature of the church.

But we’re not interested in what people say about the church; we should only be interested in what the Bible says about the church.

What does the Bible says about the nature of the church?
Who created the church and why?
Who is in the church?
How do they get into the church?

These are the questions we will examine from the Bible today.

Who created the church, and why?

Matthew 18:16 – Jesus said, “I will build my church.”  It is absolutely true that there are some churches that were created by man—many of them for the purpose of getting rich (like the Mormons). But the church of the Bible was created by Jesus Christ, at the direction of God the Father.

Daniel 2:44 – In the days of these kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom (the church) which shall never be destroyed.  The church of the Bible—the ONLY true church—was created by Jesus Christ, and was in existence beginning in Acts 2.

Acts 2:47 – And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.  We covered this in the last lesson, but just to repeat it, the church of the Bible was created by God through Jesus Christ.  This is why Scriptures refer to it as the church of God as well as the church of Christ.

But WHY was it created?

To fulfill prophecy.

Isaiah 2:1-4, Joel 2:28-32, and Daniel 2:44 were all fulfilled when the church was established in Acts 2.

Joel 2:28-32 was quoted by Peter, and he specifically said that the things which were taking place on Pentecost were fulfilling that prophecy (Acts 2:16).

Isaiah 2:1-4 said that in the last days of Jerusalem, God’s kingdom would be established and His law would go forth from Jerusalem.

On Pentecost, 40 years before Jerusalem was utterly destroyed, God’s kingdom (the church) was established in Jerusalem, and the new law of God went forth from there.

Daniel 2:44 prophesied that the kingdom would be set up in the days of the kings of the Roman Empire—which is exactly the time that the church was set up.

To replace the nation of Israel as God’s chosen people.

Read the parable of the householder in Matthew 21:33-43.  Jesus said that the kingdom would be taken away from the Jewish nation and given to a nation that was bringing forth the fruits of the kingdom (21:43).

To the Christians, Peter wrote “You are a chosen generation, a holy nation, a royal priesthood” (I Peter 2:9).  Christians are the nation of God that brings forth the fruit of the kingdom—and they do that by spreading the word of God (Matthew 28:19-20, Luke 8:11).

Acts 4:12 – Neither is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven, given among men, by which we must be saved.  This was spoken to Jews – and they were told that salvation only comes through Christ.  The Jews were basically told that being a Jew meant nothing anymore, because salvation is only through Jesus Christ.

God made the final rejection of the Jews permanent when He sent the Roman armies to destroy Jerusalem and the temple in AD 70.  It has been physically impossible to follow the Law of Moses since that date.  There’s no temple to worship in.  There’s no altar to offer sacrifices.  There’s no priesthood—let alone a Jewish high priest.  There’s no genealogical records—no one could even prove that they are from the tribe of Levi.

The church is God’s only chosen people.

To proclaim God’s word, and to reveal the great wisdom of God.

Ephesians 3:10-11 – To the intent that now unto principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God, according to the eternal purpose which He purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Jude 3 – contend for the faith which was once delivered to the saints. The faith, the wisdom of God, the PLAN of God which He purposed in Jesus Christ has been fulfilled in the establishment of the church.  And it the responsibility of the church to make that message known to the world (II Timothy 2:2, Mark 16:15-16).

Why is it important that we understand why the church was created? Because the Scriptures say that it was in God’s plan…

  • In the 500’s BC (when Daniel prophesied).
  • In the 700’s BC (When Isaiah prophesied).
  • In the 800’s BC (When Joel prophesied).
  • Before the creation of the world (Ephesians 3:10-11 – the “eternal purpose of God which was purposed in Christ Jesus,” the “Lamb that was slain from the foundation of the world” – Revelation 13:8).

Yet a very prominent teaching in some denominations is that Jesus came to set up an earthly kingdom, but somehow God goofed and had to quickly come up with an emergency back-up plan because Jesus got rejected.  They teach that the church was put in as a temporary measure until God is ready to send Jesus back to try again.

So, which one is right? Man or the Bible?

What is the church?

The word “church” is used different ways today.  Is it the building (there’s my church…)?  Is it the worship service (“going to church”)?  Is it one specific denomination (the Catholic Church…)?

What does the Bible say?

The word “church” is used in two ways to describe God’s people.

The universal church, comprised of every saved person everywhere in the world.  Ephesians 5:23 – “Christ is the head of the church.”  This refers to all Christians everywhere, not just a certain group of them.  And it doesn’t refer to anyone who isn’t a Christian.

The local group of Christians, comprised of those who meet together in one certain location.  To Philemon our dearly beloved and fellow-laborer, and to our beloved Apphia, and Archippus our fellow-soldier, and to the church that meets in thy house” (Philemon 1-2).  Paul wrote “to the churches of Galatia” (Galatians 1:2).

Who is in the church?

Truthfully, this is quite plain from the Scriptures.

Acts 2:47 – and the Lord added to the church daily, those who were being saved.  The church is composed of the people who have been saved.

Acts 20:28 – …the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.  The church is composed of the people who have been bought with the blood of Christ (another way of saying “the people who have been saved”).

The church is made up ONLY of saved people, but just as important to remember, EVERY saved person is in the church.

There are no saved people outside of the church.

People who claim to be saved, but say they’re not part of the church are actually saying they aren’t really saved.

How does one become a member of the church of the Bible?

There’s lots of different ways to become members of man-made churches.  But we’re not interested in man-made churches; we’re interested only in the church of the Bible.

As we’ve seen, one becomes a member of the church of the Bible by being saved.  When you are saved, God adds you to His one true church (Acts 2:47).

So, the question that we really need to ask is this: How can I be saved?   And when we answer the question, “How can I be saved?” then we have the answer to “how do I become a member of the church of the Bible?”

In order to be saved, there has to be a Savior.  That Savior is Jesus Christ, and He has already done His part in dying on the cross so that we can attain forgiveness of our sins.

In order to be saved, we have to hear about his offer of salvation.  If you’re drowning, and you don’t know about the life-preserver that has been thrown out, you’re going to die.  But when you hear about that life preserver, you can start trying to find it.  You can’t be saved by Jesus Christ without first hearing about Him (which is made clear in Acts 2:22-24).

In order to be saved, we have to believe in Jesus Christ, and that He died and was raised up (Romans 1:16, 10:9).

In order to be saved, we have to repent of our sins (Acts 3:19).

In order to be saved, we have to confess Jesus Christ (Romans 10:10).

In order to be saved, we have to be baptized for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38).

After, and only after we do those things, we are saved, and God adds us to the church—His church.

There are some denominations who say that being saved isn’t good enough to be part of their church—they have to vote on you, whether or not they want you as part of their church.  Any church that does that is not the church of the Bible.

When you are saved by the blood of Jesus Christ through baptism, you are a part of the church of the Bible, the church that belongs to Christ. Period. There are no extra steps.

The church is the spiritual body of Christ (Ephesians 5:23), the chosen people of God who have been saved by the blood of His dear Son (Acts 20:28).

Have you been saved?

Salvation is easy, and it is within your reach.

 

–Bradley Cobb

Sermon Thursday – Jesus the Healer

Introduction:

  1. There’s a little boy who is paralyzed. His family is poor, and they can’t afford to take him to the specialists who might be able to do something to help him. They’re listening to the radio one day in their barely-running junker of a car, and they hear something that gives them hope. An anonymous donor is willing to pay for treatments for one person. The only catch is that you have to be the first person to call in to the radio station. The family swerves to the side of the road into a gas station parking lot, and the father runs to the payphone to call the toll-free number. But he’s too late. Someone already got through first. All their hope, which for a moment was through the roof—for a moment they had no worries at all because they saw that glimmer of hope—all that hope came crashing down on them.
  2. There’s a man, unable to walk, struck with a disease that’s left him helpless for 38 years. He’s been brought to a place where the rumor is he can be healed. But the catch is that only one person per day can be healed—and it’s on a first come, first served basis. With no one to help him, his hope is gone. He hears the call to come for healing, but he has no way of going, and someone always gets there first.
  3. But there’s another man. This man walks up and says, “Are you wanting to be healed?” You can imagine this poor man getting angry—I’m laying here by the healing place. I can barely move. Of course I’m wanting to be healed! That’s how a lot of folks would respond. But this man was so depressed, so hopeless, that he couldn’t even get angry. “Sir, I have no one to help me, and another one gets there before me every time.”
  4. Could this new man be the one I’ve been waiting for? Could this new man be the one to help me get to the healing place first? Is it possible that there’s really hope for me? Can I possibly be healed? This poor man is hesitant to allow any hope in his heart—after all, it’s been 38 years that he’s suffered with this horrible disease. But maybe?
  5. Read John 5:1-9

He recognized his condition.

You’re probably thinking, Of course he recognized his condition. He was crippled!  He lives with this debilitating disease every day for thirty-eight years. He can’t escape it. It’s always right there in front of him. His limitations. His disease. His inability to be like everyone else.  He has no family—at least, no family that cares enough to try to help him. You can hear the heartbreak in his voice as he tells Jesus, “I have no one…”

But every day, you can find him sitting at the place where people say you can be healed. You find him there, hoping, wishing, probably begging for someone to help him.  He knows that he’s broken. He knows that he’s not what he wants to be.

There’s no healing without first recognizing your condition.  A woman goes to the doctor. After running some tests, the doctor is overwhelmed. “Have you been feeling OK?” he asks the woman. “Well, I’ve been having some headaches, and there’s been some blurriness in my vision, but I’m sure it’s nothing.” The doctor sits down, shaking, and says, “You’ve got cancer on your brain.” “What? That’s not possible!” “It’s spread to the point that there’s nothing that can be done. If you’d have come in earlier, when you first started having the headaches, we might have been able to take care of it. But now, it’s too late. At most, I think you’ve got a month to live.”

If this woman had recognized her condition—recognized that she had a need, then healing was possible. But since she kept putting it off, ignoring it, it was too late. Even when the doctor told her of the condition, she refused to believe it.

There’s no spiritual healing without first recognizing your condition.  The number one reason why people aren’t being saved, being brought into Christ through baptism, is that they don’t realize they’re lost! They don’t recognize their condition. They don’t realize that they are sick and dying. They think they’re doing A-OK.

Jesus says, “Those who are whole don’t need a physician, but those who are sick” (Matthew 9:12). The thing is, everybody is sick—whether they realize it or not.

For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 6:23), and the wages for sin is death (Romans 3:23). Everyone is sin-sick. Everyone is dying from sin. And everyone needs the doctor, the healer, the physician—Jesus Christ.

Until someone recognizes their sin-sick condition, they’ll never be healed—because they’ll never look for healing. People who think they’re just fine don’t have a reason to look for healing.  What’s your condition?

He looked for healing.

Granted, he’s looking for it in the wrong place, but at least he’s looking He is a man who knows he’s got problems, and he’s trying to fix them. We ought to admire that. He has failed for 38 years to fix the problem, but he keeps trying. I wish more people were like that.

He hears that there’s some special healing power in the pool of Bethesda, and he makes sure he’s there. Whether the healing powers were real, or whether they were just a rumor, the point is, the man is looking for healing, and willing to go wherever he needs to try to get it.

Even Jesus recognized that this man was looking for the cure to his disease. Jesus asked him, “Are you wanting to be made whole?” (John 5:6). The man knows he’s broken. He knows he’s not well. And he’s not content to stay that way. He’s looking for a way to be fixed—to be healed.

There’s no healing without looking for it.  William Clairemore is sitting at his desk, writing a letter. He is incredibly depressed. He’s got a flesh-eating disease that has gradually destroyed his leg, and it is slowly creeping up towards his chest. He’s stopped going out in public. He refuses any visitors. The only one who ever sees him is his wife, and even then it’s only long enough for him to take the plate of food that she’s prepared before he shuts the door. There’s no one that can help me. What’s the point? There’s no hope.

If William would make up his mind to look for help—to look for healing, he would find that his disease is treatable. But instead, he sits. Alone. Depressed. Fully aware of his sickness, but refusing to look for a cure. And then he dies.

There’s no spiritual healing without looking for it.  There’s no such thing as accidental forgiveness. You aren’t going to be going along in life one day and God just accidentally forgives you.

God offers forgiveness to anyone who’s willing to take it. It’s like a free clinic that heals your sin-sickness—and there is a 100% success rate. The thing is, God isn’t a door-to-door doctor. He doesn’t come knock on your door and say, “Hey, I’m here to forgive you.” You have to go to Him.

If you want to know about the healing that’s available, where to get it, and how to get it, you’ve got to read the Bible. You’ve got to read it with an open mind and an open heart. In the pages of this book the cure can be found. In the pages of this book, you can learn about the healing that will save you from dying.

But if you’re not willing to look for it, you can’t be saved. “Seek and ye shall find” (Matthew 7:7).

Jesus gives the healing.

The man has been looking for healing in the wrong places. But we can’t be too harsh on him. After all, he isn’t the only one thinking that this was the way to be healed. There’s blind folks, and crippled folks, maimed folks, folks who are every bit as broken as he is.  But if he wasn’t there—if he wasn’t looking for healing, he never would have met Jesus.

Jesus asks him, “Are you wanting to be healed?” And the man’s answer expresses Yes! I long to be healed. I am so broken, and I struggle. I want to be made whole again. But I don’t see any way to do it. I need help.

Jesus saith unto him, “Rise. Take up your bed, and walk.” And immediately the man was made whole, and took up his bed, and walked. (John 5:8-9).

Jesus is the way that this broken man is healed.

There is no spiritual healing without Jesus. Jesus Christ of Nazareth…Neither is there salvation in any other; for there is no other name under heaven, given among men, whereby we must be saved (Acts 4:12).  Jesus is called the Savior because He is the only one who has the power to save—the power to heal. “The great Physician now is near, the sympathizing Jesus.”

Jesus says, “Come to me, all of you who are laboring, and who are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my burden on you and learn of me, for I am meek and lowly in heart, and you shall find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).

The gift of God is eternal life through His Son (Romans 6:23).

Conclusion:

  1. John is dying. Years of smoking invited cancer to make its home in his lungs. Then one night, he’s reading on the internet and comes across this webpage advertising a “heal-yourself-at-home” product. His interest is piqued, and he keeps reading. As he reads, he sees a testimonial from Wilma of Akron, OH who says that after just two weeks of being on this program, her lung cancer is gone! So John excitedly enters his debit card information and anxiously awaits the package. When he opens it, he finds a professional-looking book and a bottle of special powder. He mixes up the powder just like the instructions say, and takes some before every meal. As the days go by, he says to his wife that he thinks this new product is working. His lungs don’t seem to feel as heavy as before. By the end of three weeks, he’s convinced that his cancer is in full remission, if not gone completely. At the end of the fifth week, John dies as the lung cancer wins. You see, the powder didn’t do anything. He had convinced himself that he was healed, and all the while, he was still dying—the disease was still there.
  2. Jason is looking for healing from sin. He knows he’s lost. He feels the immense weight of guilt and shame of his sins. He desperately wants to be made free. His friend tells him, “Jesus is the only one who can take away your sins. Let’s bow down together and ask Jesus to come into your heart.” And Jason does. He gets up, convinced he’s free, convinced that he’s been healed. But he’s still dying. The disease of sin is still there, because he bought into a fake cure.
  3. Jesus wants you to be healed. He gave up His own life so that you can be healed. But Jesus doesn’t come to you. You have to come to Him. Where is He? Well, He’s up the steps:
    1. Step 1: believe in Him (John 3:16).
    2. Step 2: leave behind the things that were making you sick in the first place—repent (Acts 17:30).
    3. Step 3: acknowledge Him as the only one who can save you—Jesus Christ, the Son of God (Romans 10:9-10).
    4. Step 4: bury your old, dying self into the watery grave of baptism—be buried with Christ, and rise up a brand-new creature—one that has been healed! (Romans 6:3-4).
  4. There is healing—you don’t have to be broken anymore.
  5. But what if I get sick again? What if that sin-sickness comes back? Go back to the doctor. Go to God in prayer, confessing that you let yourself get sick again, and He will heal you (I John 1:9).

Sermon Thursday – Stay in the House!

Stay in the House!

There are sounds of gunfire and screaming coming from outside his window.  The man slowly moves the curtain aside and peers through the glass to see what’s happening. His kids are worried, “Dad, what’s that noise?” “Is somebody hurt?” The man barks at them, “get back!” He makes his way to the front door, and the kids start begging, “Dad, don’t go! Stay here with us.”  The dad opens the door and steps out onto the porch. He turns around and sternly says, “Stay in the house!”  The door shuts, and the children don’t see their father anymore. They run to the window and look as their father falls to the ground dead. And through the crying and tears, they are haunted by the question that they can never answer: Why didn’t daddy stay in the house?

Why would a man tell his children to “stay in the house!”? 

Because there is safety in the house. There is security in the house. There is protection in the house.  Because there is danger outside. It could cost them their lives.

In the Bible there was a strict command given to “stay in the house!”  It’s found in Joshua 2.

The Israelites—almost 3 million of them—are camped next to the Jordan River. Across the Jordan stands the city of Jericho, surrounded by its two protective walls.  From the top of Jericho’s walls, you can see the Israelite camp, their tents, their campfires, and more people than you’ve ever seen in your life—and they’re about to attack.

Then, two of them show up in the city; on the walls; in your house!  Scared for your life, you don’t dare turn them in—you don’t want to anger their God. You quickly hide them on your roof, and when the soldiers come to your door, you send them on a wild-goose chase—because you don’t want to anger the powerful Jehovah of the Israelites. You send the spies out safely, but beg them to spare you and your family when they finally attack.  The spies agree, but give you the stern warning: “stay in the house!”

If you want to be safe, get in the house!

For Rahab and her family to be safe, they have to get in the house (Joshua 2:18).   The spies said “when we come into the land, thou shalt bind this line of scarlet thread in the window which thou didst let us down by: and thou shalt bring thy father, and thy mother, and thy brethren, and all thy father’s household home unto thee.” Literally, they said, “into your house.”  The only way that anyone in the city of Jericho was going to be saved was if they got in the house.

So, Rahab found her family, and brought them into the house with her—because she wanted to be saved, and she wanted her family to be saved too.  To refuse to come into the house was to refuse salvation.  To refuse to come into the house was to bring death on themselves.

For anyone today to be saved, they have to “get in the house” (Acts 2:47).   The house of God is the church (I Timothy 3:15 – “the house of God, which is the church”).   All saved people are in the church (Acts 2:47)—there are no saved people outside of the church.     Christ’s blood is required for salvation, and it only covers those who are in the church (Acts 20:28).   You’re surrounded by enemies who are ready to destroy you—and the only way to be safe is to “get in the house!

Salvation is only found in the church, because it is the house of God, the body of Christ.   To reject the church is to reject salvation!   To reject the church is to bring destruction upon yourself!  If you’re not in the house yet, GET IN IT!  And if you are in the house, why aren’t you trying to get other people in it with you? Do you want them to be destroyed? Are you content to think, “Well, I’ll be saved, so it doesn’t really matter about anyone else?”

If you want to be safe, stay in the house!

For Rahab and her family to be safe, they have to stay in the house (Joshua 2:19).  “And it shall be that whosoever shall go out of the doors of your house into the street, his blood shall be upon his head and we shall be guiltless.” Basically, “if they leave the house, they’re dead. And it’ll be their own fault.”

Rahab and her family get all their belongings, and they all huddle together in the house. They look out the window, scared for their people, but also confident that God would keep His promise. They see hundreds of thousands of soldiers march around their city once a day for six days—and the soldiers don’t say a word. It is eerie, disconcerting, and frightening.  But through it all, they stay in the house because they know that they are only safe if they stay in the house.

For anyone today to be saved, they have to “stay in the house!”    Almost every letter in the New Testament contains warnings about losing your salvation.  But this is nowhere more clearly stated than in Revelation.  Jesus walks among the seven golden candlesticks, which are his church (Revelation 1:20).   A church who ceases to follow Christ will have its candlestick removed—that is, they will no longer be part of the church (Revelation 2:5).  In fact, Jesus describes the process as vomiting them out of His mouth, His body—vomiting them out of the church (Revelation 3:16).  Those who returned to the Law of Moses willingly left the church of Jesus Christ—and had “fallen from grace” (Galatians 5:4).

When you leave the church, you leave the protection of the blood of Christ—and you bring it on yourself!  You’re surrounded by an enemy that is ready to destroy you. You’re in the one safe place where they can’t harm you. And then you open the door and walk out—into the destructive hands of the enemy.   It’s stupid! It’s like being in a storm cellar in the middle of a tornado, and then getting out as it goes right over you. You’re dead!  Instead, stay gathered with your family—your brothers and sisters in Christ—stay safe in the house (the church).

Conclusion:

On the seventh day of the siege, the hundreds of thousands of Israelite soldiers marched around the city seven times. The people in Jericho knew something was coming. As they looked out over the wall and through windows, they could see nothing but soldiers—silent soldiers—being led by God Himself.

Then, without warning, trumpets blast and six hundred thousand voices scream all at once. The ground shakes and the walls of the city crash to the ground. And through the dust they see the screaming soldiers running straight into the city with their swords swinging. Blood splatters and pools on the ground and person after person falls lifeless to the ground. Then comes the fire, destroying the city and everything in it.

But one section of the wall never fell.

One small section of the wall still stood, with a house sitting on top of it. Inside that house was a woman who wanted to be saved. Inside that house was her family. Inside that house was a group of people who trusted in God’s promise.

What made that house different? Why did it stand when all the others fell?

There were plenty of other houses. There were plenty of other people huddled in other houses. What made this one different? This house had a window. Out of that window hung a cord—a scarlet cord. That cord is what made that house stand out. That cord is what marked that house for salvation. That scarlet cord saved the spies, and now it saved Rahab and her family.

And Joshua saved Rahab…and her father’s household” (Joshua 6:25).

On the final day, destruction will come upon this entire world. The trumpet will sound and Jesus will shout (I Thessalonians 4:16). No one will be able to stand in the face of His fierce destruction. And then comes the fire—the eternal fire (Mark 9:43-48).

But one house is spared.

Inside that house are people who wanted to be saved when destruction came. But what made that house different? What makes this CHURCH different? After all, there’s plenty of other churches out there.   This church is different because of scarlet—the scarlet of Jesus’ blood. It is that blood which sets this church apart. It is that blood that makes this church stand out. The scarlet marks this church—this house—for salvation.

The people in this house are also saved by Joshua—of course, we know this Joshua by His Greek name, Jesus.

Jesus said He would build HIS church (Matthew 16:18). There is only one church that Christ recognizes. There is only one church that God adds to (Acts 2:47). Christ only built one church. Man has built many. Only Christ’s church—the one protected by the scarlet—will be saved.

The question now is this: how do you get in the house? How do you save yourself from the destruction? How do you get covered by the blood of Jesus?  Those who are baptized into Jesus Christ (Galatians 3:27) are the ones who are added to the church (Acts 2:47)–God puts them into the house!

Are you in the house?

–Bradley Cobb